Spot a Fake Prada (With Photos)
A visual guide to authenticating a Prada purse
Like many of you, we cringe at the sight of women who buy and use fake Prada handbags, whether unwittingly or on purpose. It’s offensive to the rest of us who actually buy the real thing, as it diminishes the value of the design and pedigree we pay for.
If you suspect that someone you know is carrying a hideous knock-off, call her attention to it. Perhaps she unknowingly bought a fake on eBay, so do her a favour and tell her immediately, before someone embarrasses her.
How do you know it’s a fake?
To understand a Prada is to see and touch one. Aside from using our own authentic purses as pegs, we also compiled magnified, high resolution images from Prada’s official online store to show you what to inspect in terms of lining, interior nameplate, exterior logo, locks and hardware, zipper, and zipper pulls.
INTERIOR LINING AND NAMEPLATE
There are currently three types of authentic fabric lining, and 2 types of interior nameplates. The photos (all official, direct from Prada) show you what the inside of an authentic purse looks like.
The most recognisable is the classic ‘fabric jacquard logo’ lining and nameplate combination, which is still being used in all Galleria collection bags, some of the saffiano calf leather bags, and travel bags , including messenger bags and backpacks.
This lining is very thick and almost waterproof. It always matches the exterior colour of the bag. Prada manufactures matching linings even for its complicated hues – turquoise, sand, caramel, pale grey, cameo, chalk white, papaya, cobalt, blue, etc. This is the kind of detail that goes into an authentic purse. Except in the nylon messenger bag line where black lining is periodically used with in royal blue and navy green bags, you will rarely see a mismatch.
Like the lining, the nameplate always matches the colour of the bag. The first picture on the right clearly shows that the plate is ‘clay grey,’ just like the leather used.
The new lining and interior nameplate
The most recent line of saffiano calf leather totes use leather lining and leather nameplates. These new interior details also appear in the braided Madras line of totes and messenger bags, the recent saffiano calf leather clutches, and the antiqued nappa leather top handle bag, to name a few models. Real Prada leather lining is thin, pinkish and feels like silk. Try to stick your hand into the inside pocket and roll the lining in your fingers to get a better feel of the quality.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Starting 2009 Fall/Winter, Prada has started to use a very well made hybrid plastic-leather versions of this lining, which feel thicker and a bit shinier than real leather. The bags finished with this material run cheaper than the ultra luxurious, all leather line. However, the care cards that come with them still say ‘leather lining’ – a misrepresentation, some bag connoisseurs say, because the material is actually a hybrid. Whether this new ‘pleather’ lining will withstand the test of time as well as their signature fabric logo lining is yet to be seen.
Combination classic fabric logo lining + new interior nameplate
Finally, there some bags use the classic jacquard fabric logo with the new leather nameplate. We have spotted this trend in a Gaufre’ nappa leather tote and the 2011 double handle deerskin totes so far. We’re not too crazy about this rather odd combination, but yes – it does exist.
Unlike Louis Vuitton, Prada does not pepper an entire bag with logos. That’s why women who prefer understand elegance gravitate to the brand.
Enameled triangle logo
The iconic enameled triangle logo is the most recognisable Prada trademark. It’s still widely used today and is not likely to be discontinued. This is why vintage Pradas from the ‘90s still look current – they use the same triangle marque.
Metal lettering logo
The metal lettering logo is a bit more elaborate and takes a bit more time to accomplish, as each character has to be hammered, force-fitted, and glued into the leather or fabric one at a time.
One version comes complete with the words ‘Prada,’ ‘Milano,’ ‘Dal 1913,’ and the coat of arms. They are either fitted directly on the material of the purse, or on a triangle plate that is eventually stitched on to the bag. We have seen this in a lot of models, including the grained calf leather handbag line and double handle saffiano calf leather totes. The other simpler version of this metal lettering logo simply says ‘Prada.’ We saw this on the nylon jacquard hobo bag (double handle, with nappa leather trim), which is in the relatively cheaper sub-$1,200 / £770 / €890 range.
ZIPPERS, LOCKS, BAG TAGS, and other HARDWARE
Prada uses either shiny brass hardware, black palladium (as seen in the Glacè calf leather tote line), palladium (as seen on the Reversible nylon tote), or polished steel. Most fakes use lower quality metals that corrode in just a few months.
There are two dominant zipper pulls in production – one is the brass/polished steel metal pull with the word ‘Prada’ engraved on it, and the other is the more classic leather pull, which matches the colour of the bag exactly. Prada currently does not manufacture fabric pulls. In fact, even fabric Vela and Tessuto bags use leather zipper pulls and trims.
All hardware should be engraved ‘Prada,’ from the belt buckle closures, magnets, hooks, D-rings that attach the handles to the body, and even the snap hook on the adjustable straps. Some bags come with bag tags. All hardware on these tags are engraved ‘Prada.’
VERY GOOD FAKES
There are supposedly ‘very good’ fakes out in the market these days, and they have been given that honour because they’re made of leather instead of obviously fake plastic and cost upwards of $100. These knockoffs may seem like the genuine articles from a distance, but inch closer and you’ll quickly see disturbing details.
a. Poor hardware. The hardware is dull and lacks that luxurious sheen. Unlike authentic logos, zipper pulls, hooks, and locks that are made of either brass or polished steel, fake hardware is typically made of nickel (at best), looks reddish, and is much lighter.
b. Substandard leather. Some higher-end fakes do use 100% leather from scraps of the hide after the top grain is removed. But most of the ‘leather’ used on good knock-offs is not truly 100% leather. They material is actually called ‘bonded leather’ and is made of fibres and leather scraps mixed together and then processed much like paper, formed into a roll with the use bonding materials like adhesives. The end product may look and feel like real leather to someone who has never touched an authentic Prada deerskin before. But actually, the material is only about 17% leather.
c. Cheap fabric. It’s quite impossible to copy Prada’s signature Tessuto and Vela fabrics, which are woven to last decades. Knock-offs use flimsy nylon fabrics that don’t quite feel as thick and sturdy as the real thing.
NO TO FAKES
Here’s the bottom line. If you have held, smelled, and visually inspected a real Prada, it’s pretty easy to understand why they cost as much as they do. The genuine articles are made of high quality materials and are made by skilled craftsmen. (Whether they’re in Italy or Slovenia is irrelevant.) The stitching is superb, the leather is soft and impeccably dyed, and the hardware doesn’t tarnish for at least a decade. The fabric bags are just as sturdy. The material is thick, waterproof, and doesn’t tear.
Are you thinking about buying a Prada from eBay to save money? Don’t. The auction site is populated by sellers of fake designer goods (thieves, really) who can’t wait to trick you into buying a hilarious knockoff.
The real deal can be purchased AT A DISCOUNT from reputable websites; in fact, we meticulously compile on-sale items in our authentic discounted Prada section. Sign up and become our member if you want to get alerts on the latest markdowns from upscale designers.
Of course, there’s no reason not to simply walk into a Prada store and buy direct, just to be sure (the outlets are everywhere now, even in airports). If for some reason you don’t have access to a boutique, you can buy online from Neiman Marcus.
Whatever you do, don't use knockoffs. If you find yourself being drawn to their impossibly low price tags, remember this:
To carry a fake is to fool yourself.
Original photos from Prada’s official site, magnified for clarity.
Click on the images to enlarge.
These are high resolution photos of details in several authentic Prada handbags. Use them for comparison.